Ooh la la…

Consider this Part 543 in an ongoing series in my thrifty life called: Something-Else-Awesome-that-Josh-and-I-Found-on-the-Road-on-Trash-Day-and-How-it-Changed-Our-Lives-Hashtag-Only-Slightly-Exaggerating.  

Previous beloved installments in this unofficial series include…

butcher block dining room table

I’m offended by how blurry this picture is… I don’t blame you if you feel the same way.

This butcher block top Josh saved from the streets one trash day — and after we Googled a similar sized piece of block for pricing, we realized it was worth almost $300 (and it had no damage!).

We also found those beauties…


We saved these antique crystal door knobs from an old door on the street.  With a little elbow grease, they were removed from the (probably) lead paint ridden door, and placed into my happy hands.  And oh, how I love them…


However, this past trash day’s prize takes it all.

A monstrously large, solid-as-a-rock, mostly-undamaged French Provincial dresser:


NO, stained wood — especially this orange-y color — is NOT usually my thing.  I have plans o’ painting.  But wait… I’ll get to that in a minute.  First: Storytime!

So… as Josh and I often do, we were walking to work together (#americandream), and we spied this hunk of loveliness hanging out on the street all “You can’t have me because you live in a 400 sq. ft. apartment, but wouldn’t you love to refinish me with a slate grey milk paint with crisp white accents?  But you CAN’T!”  Such a tease.  I cursed whoever was giving up such a beautiful piece of furniture — with such potential — but passed it up because (like the piece of furniture said in my strange metaphor), Josh and I live in 400 sq. ft. so adding things like a huge French Provincial dresser (it’s over six feet long and about three feet high!) or removing enough of our current furniture to fit in (when we don’t want to get rid of anything but our old slipcovered couch) is a no-go.  Cue a deep sigh.  And that was the end of that.  Until…

I was walking the dogs the next day and —


Aren’t my dogs the cutest things you’ve EVER SEEN?!?!


My heart breaks a little every time I look at them because I’m pretty sure they’ll never fully comprehend how much I love them…

Unpause.  Slight rewind for dramatic effect.

I was walking the dogs the next day when I saw the dresser again.

{Insert picture of dresser in street here}

Obviously I didn’t really take pictures of it because it was hard enough to say goodbye the first time.  I didn’t want to accidentally stumble across a picture of it in the future…  and cry.  Or something equally irrational.

But again, I passed it up… but not before determining its structural stability (sturdy and sound) and whether or not the drawers stayed on their track (yep, brilliantly so).  Oh, and of course, I saw this sexy detail for the first time:


A dovetail joint.  Va-va-voom.

Then I fell in love.  Hard.

But it was more like summer lovin’, like in the song… where you have to go your separate ways at the end — Australia and Rydell High, or in the case of the dresser and me: to the nearest landfill and to my shoebox apartment, respectively.

…That’s not to say I didn’t dwell on the dresser for a disproportionate amount of time afterwards.

Fast forward to later that night when Josh and I were walking our dogs again — my life in New York City is 70% walking and 30% everything else — and we checked out the dresser yet again.  I say “checked out,” but really I gave it a cursory glance while Josh really got in there (#thatswhatshesaid).  Like I did before, he checked the drawers, did the whole push it and see if it wobbles test (passed with flying colors, of course), and gave it his general approval, while in the same breath reminding me — “I know, I know” — that we had nowhere to put it.

The following day — trash day — we walked past it, realized it was now or never, and in an insane fit of French Provincial passion, hefted it half a block and up four flights of stairs.

The problem is, when I I type it all out in one sentence like that, it undermines just how. much. work. it was.  Like, I don’t even want to guess how much it weighs.

So, Josh and I took out all the drawers and took those upstairs (twelve drawers, four flights, three trips).  Then we carried the body of the dresser (did I mention it was half a block + four flights of stairs?).  We still didn’t have a clear plan as to where it would go, what would be lost with the gain of said dresser, and how many drawers of this dresser Josh would get to use for his clothing (spoiler alert: zero).  But we knew we loved it, it had a little damage (just a couple of dings on the side that wood putty can save), and we knew it would be valuable to us in the coming years (we’re not going to live in apartments forever, I can promise you that).

Ok.  Enough storytime.  You all knew how it ended anyway.  Let’s look at substandard pictures of her in relatively poor nighttime/indoor lighting:




On behalf of my neat freak husband, let me apologize for the dirty rug.  I don’t really care so much, but he almost wouldn’t let me take pictures because of the way it looked.


Medallion deliciousness…


And like I said, I don’t care for orange-y stained wood, so I’ll mos’ def be painting it.  I had images of grey and white milk paint, so I decided to Google image search and see what popped up (rather than always trying to imagine it, I sometimes like to look up an example from other crafty bloggers and see how it turns out in the end).

I found this great example from Mustard Seed Interiors:

{Source: Mustard Seed Interiors}

It’s literally EXACTLY what I had imagined (slate grey with white for the trimmy bits and medallions), and it looks even better than I expected.  Imagining this against a navy wall with this couch…

EKTORP Sofa IKEA Easy to keep clean with removable, dry clean only cover.

{Source: Ikea}

And this kind of natural jute rug:

And throw pillows in these patterns and/or colors:

{Source: Fabric.com}

{Source: Pookadella’s Home Decor Etsy Shop}

Pair that with the turquoise silk pillow I already have….

Add some long curtains in this fabric:

{Source: Fabric.com}

Repaint and stain my current end tables to look like this:

{Source: Centsational Girl}

Buy this quirky lamp and spray paint the base lime green or yellow and replace the current shade with a drum shade:

{Source: Boscov’s}

Maybe throw in a fixture like this one:

{Source: Shades of Light}

….along with my slew of awesome accessories that I already have and…

future living room moodboard

Yeah. I’ve pretty much redecorated my whole apartment in my mind.

Trash day scavenging is a dangerous thing.

I don’t know when I’ll get to painting the dresser — much less all these other changes — but  I’ll keep you posted along the way of course.  Ohboyohboyohboy.

courtney gpp signature 2


And I got it for FREE!

Yesterday was my mom’s birthday, and in case you missed it, I talked about her crazy-craftiness, specifically in regards to stuff she’s made for my home.  In addition to being all-around awesome, she is also salvage-savvy.  Before it was all abuzz in the blog-o-sphere, she was re-purposing old doors into headboards, picking up “damaged” dressers off the side of the road and repainting them, and she even once got an 8′ artificial Christmas tree from a neighbors’ “trash.”  Yeah, she’s that lady.  (Hm… I think I’ve made her sound crazy… but she’s not.  Only crafty-crazy.  See? That’s so much better than just straight up crazy.)

And however seemingly, um… weird… I found this behavior to be as a child, she still somehow managed to instill in me the same values.

And I passed these “values” on to Josh.  (I’ve made her very proud.)

It has often been mentioned in many design shows and magazines that if you live in a big city, you could probably furnish your whole apartment on things you found on the side of the road — things deemed “trash.”  More often that not, there is nothing wrong with these items and the previous owner was either too lazy to donate or sell them or didn’t see the hidden potential for further use.  When this happens, passers-by with two free hands score, and such has been the case for Josh and I since we have lived in NYC.

Among our many finds (and thus, additions to our apartment), the BEST has been our new butcher block table top:

butcher block dining room table

Ta da!

(“Thank you, Courtney, for that extremely blurry picture!  It really shows you care.”  “You’re welcome!”)

As you may remember, the original tabletop was found at Ikea for $19.99.  The Singer sewing machine base was from an actual circa 1920’s, antique Singer sewing machine.

antique singer sewing machine dining room table


I liked the previous table top, but we knew that because it’s cheap, Ikea wood (like a step up from particle board) that we’d eventually want to replace it.  Being that the Singer base is made of iron, we knew we could replace it with just about anything and it would be fully supported.


On Halloween of this year, Josh was walking down our street on the way home from work, when he spotted a butcher block table top sitting on top of someone’s trash.  It was near what looked like its previous base, but the base was broken (and cheap looking anyway).  We assume that once the base broke, the previous owner just decided to trash the whole thing.  Josh — probably hearing the sound of my voice in his head — inspected it for stains or damage, found none, and carried it home.

That sounds so easy, right?!  However, the carrying-it-home part was faaarrrr more difficult as it weighs a BAJILLION pounds.  It is solid, maple butcher block after all.

(In fact, I remember calling him and asking where he was, to which he replied, out of breath, “I… am… bringing… a surprise…. home…. t’you. [gasp] Be… there… soon!”  I later Googled how much a typical butcher block of this size actually weighs, and it’s about NINETY POUNDS.)

After a lot of stop-and-go walking as Josh carried the butcher block 1/4 mile down the street and up FOUR flights of stairs, he brought it into the apartment.  I remember seeing it from a distance and saying “That isn’t laminate, right?”  He got a bit sassy with me as said “Um, NO — Definitely not!”

Later, we removed the Ikea top, attached the butcher block one, and stood back and smiled.

Let’s look one more time :)

butcher block dining room table

Ta da!

Isn’t she lovely?

It’s just the tiniest bit wider and maybe 2 inches longer, but this little bit really makes ALL the difference.  And since I have virtually no counter space, this really helps out in that department (I felt weird using the veneer/laminate/particle board stuff before as a prep surface, not that I ever used it as a cutting board or anything).

And because we like to pat ourselves on the back, we decided to Google how much a similar butcher block table top would cost, brand new.  We saw one here that has about the same measurements as ours for $289.


So yeah, we were pretty happy.  The next step is to go over it a couple of times with a fine-grained sand paper, and rub it down with mineral oil (this isn’t because it’s damaged, this is just what you do with butcher block tops).

And don’t worry, the original Ikea top will not be going to the trash.  We’ll think of something else for that… or we’ll Craigslist it!

The moral of the story:  The next time you walk or drive by something that looks like it might have some hidden potential (or that is already awesome in its own right), stop.  It may be complete junk… or it may be something that, once it’s been given a little TLC, you cherish and pass down in your family for years to come!


You might also fancy…

Books and Nooks: The Living Room Edition

The Odyssey of the Curtain-Bookshelf Thing

Recycled Market

This ridiculous picture of Josh singing 80’s music:

“Books and Nooks”: The Living Room Edition

We here at The Ginger Penny Pincher—and by “we” I mean me—feel strongly that you do NOT have to have a lot of money to have a beautiful home.  It usually just takes time, creativity, and a little search engine action!  Needless to say, I apply this philosophy to my own life, most recently as this past August, when my husband and I moved to Brooklyn.

Honestly though, I’ve had a lot of practice:  We have moved four times in less than three years of marriage.  Due to that whole starving artist thing we got going on—and we got it goin’ ON!—we have always been in apartments that were perhaps a little smaller than what we really needed.  As performing artists, we have a lot of work-related “stuff”:  plays, sheet music, music books, more books, lots of dance clothes, dance shoes, many notebooks, musical instruments, a surprising array of office supplies, extensive record-keeping systems and folders of receipts (since we usually work as independent contractors), two dogs…  well, the dogs are unrelated, but they do take up a bit of room… and still more books.  Lots of books.

All this stuff needs a place (“A place for everything, and everything in its place”), but with smaller living quarters, this poses a challenge.  Not to mention the challenge of trying to make our home not look cluttered.   And providing storage for all the stuff.  Oh yeah, and there’s a budget, so…

Ok, so I thought I would take you on a tour of MY home and hopefully offer some suggestions, advice, perhaps a few anecdotes, and by doing so simultaneously inspire you to go forth and revive your own home – without breaking the bank.  Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so if you do not love my apartment, that’s OK.  You don’t hurt my feelings :-)  (I LOVE my apartment!), but perhaps some of my tips and tricks can be of use to you, anyway.

Welcome to my home, “Books and Nooks”:  The Living Room Edition!!!

 (That’s right, I named our home “Books and Nooks.” )

Living room

PaintOne of the most cost-effective and easiest ways to make a major change, and it sure beats contractor white.  I used satin finish, but opted for the cheapest mix.  You have to request this, otherwise they’ll usually give you the medium-priced or highest-prices one.  (1 gallon, $22)

Couch:  Not my favorite thing we own, but it works!  The couch was a hand-me-down — from a friend of the family– and I added a slipcover from Wal-mart.   ($32)

Houndstooth rug: This is where a search engine comes in handy — I Googled houndstooth rug under the shopping option and Overstock.com had BY FAR the best deal.  And the quality is great!  ($125, a splurge in GPP land, but worth it for the big statement it makes, and FAR cheaper than many of the full priced dopplegangers that can run as much as $1,000.)

Throw pillows:  The paisley one was made from fabric out of the remnants bin at JoAnn (most fabric stores have these).  The green one on the couch is silk with real down filling (ooh la la!)  and I totally got it at Goodwill. The two white pillows were painted by the incomparable Teresa Hyke Foster — my mom!  They are actually separate covers that were made to cover two other pillows that I’d used in a previous apartment.  Not everyone can have a mother with mad artsy skills, so if you are not feeling the free hand thing, just use a stencil.  You can buy these or BETTER yet, find one and print it off from the computer.  (app. $20 for all pillows)

Another view of the living room

Painting:  By Teresa Hyke Foster. I am really spoiled.  It was a Christmas gift, and it is of Preservation Hall, a jazz club in New Orleans, where Josh and I honeymooned  — not in the jazz club, in the city.  (Cost = free! Santa is the best.)

Stacks of books:  I mentioned we have lots of books. One can only have so many bookshelf units in their home (we have four!).  Instead, I have chosen to “feature” some of the prettier hardback books in various stacks throughout the apartment (and yes, I try to color coordinate the stacks of books — it’s prettier that way!).  Update:  Since taking this picture, I have reduced the two short stacks to just one tall stack.  (I don’t factor in cost, because these were not originally bought for the purpose of decor).

Entertainment Center

Entertainment Center:  It was being thrown away, so we took it!  After re-painting it and adding some faux crystal drawer pulls, it’s as good as new!  (Paint = $30, Faux crystal drawer pulls = $1/each.)

Old Suitcase:  A friend of the family was getting rid of this, but we took it because… that’s what we do.  It’s easily tucked away and is also a good storage container (right now it is full of all kinds of things).

Old timey movie camera pillow:  Another THF original.  She’s a rockstar.

Large TV:  Free from a hotel that was upgrading to flat panel TV’S.   (By the way, I don’t know when we as a society got so obsessed with the size of our TV’s rear ends, but that does seem to be the trend.  Whatever, I got a free, big-screen TV out of it.)

Storage containers above entertainment center:  Pretty storage!  All purchased on clearance at a home decor store.  I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for something.  (app. $20 for all three)

I thought I was so clever, making a reading area for myself; Margeaux got to it first. Silly humans and their plans.

Old timey movie camera pillow:  Another THF original.  She’s a rockstar.

Corner by the front door

Hanging paper lamp:  Ikea, $29.99.  I love Ikea.

End table:  It was being thrown away = free for me!

Stackable chairs: Target, $15.99 ea.  Things that stack are smart!

Beautiful hardwood parquet floors:  The perks of living in a pre-war apartment building.

Wall art:  I really need a close-up of this — I took a framed “inspirational quote” from Goodwill (I bought it for the frame), took out the inspirational quote (“Reach for the stars!”  Really?), and put in my own picture — ransom note style, with various F’s and D’s cut out from magazines and glued on a piece of white paper (those are the letters of our last names, in case you were trying to work it out).  Cost = the randomly chosen Goodwill price of $1.88 for the frame.

Behind the couch

Vase, flowers:  Ikea is my baby’s daddy.  ($10, total… though I know this could be done for less.)

Baker’s Rack

Baker’s Rack:  I grew up with this piece of furniture in my childhood bedroom, and it housed all of my toys.  It started out black, then was painted fire engine red, then hunter green, then the color things get when they’re dusty, as it sat in the basement for 11 years, barely being used.  I knew in NYC we’d need as many kitchen storage options as possible because:  a) I love to cook, and b) I have a LOT of kitchen utensils and appliances that I will NOT be parting with any time soon.  Going with the vertical tradition of NYC, I took this baker’s rack and –six cans of spray paint later– it is definitely not hunter green (a color I despise), but rather lime green.  (I know this color isn’t for everybody, but I love it — it’s like caffeine for the eyes.)  Of course, I have some cabinet space, but very little, so I decided to showcase my prettiest plates and stainless steel appliances and hide the less pretty things in the cabinets.  I used various crocks and flower pots to store utensils and flatware, since my kitchen drawers were actually too narrow for a standard size drawer divider.  I stuck a rod through the curlicue holes on the sides of the baker’s rack to offer a place to hang a roll of paper towels.  The two boxes serve as storage (a packing box and a shoebox) and I just covered them with scrapbook paper that I’d previously found in the clearance section at Hobby Lobby (wrapping paper would’ve been even better, but I didn’t have any).

Appliances:  Ah, the wonders of a wedding registry :-)

S hooks:  I added these into the grated shelves of the baker’s rack.  Coffee mug storage = 10 cents each!


Barware:  Wedding registry win!

Bookcase:  Wal-Mart, $10.

Mirror:  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…

Dining “room.” Quotation marks were essential.

Dining room table:  This is one of my FAVES!  Idea by Teresa Foster, follow-through by Courtney Foster-Donahue, demolition by Harold and Derek Foster, and assembly by Josh Donahue (we should really take our show on the road).  I knew I wanted a dining room table in NYC, but the most important things were for it to be small and… pretty!  My mother had found an antique (circa 1920’s) Singer sewing, but it had been collecting dust in their basement since my family moved to Atlanta.  I did some Googling and found this table, and by coincidence, I already had the exact same chairs, so I just copied the idea! We took a pre-made Ikea table top ($20) and affixed it to the sewing machine base (my father and brother removed the original top).  Of course, not everyone has a mother with an eye for antiques, but it is possible to find these sewing machines in a lot of unexpected places, in addition to antique stores.

Spaghetti hanging lamp:  Oh you know, someone was getting rid of it… story of my life.

Framed poster: If you still have unframed posters up on your walls, the only acceptable reason for this is that you’re still in college.  I’m not passing judgment, I’m just tellin’ you like it is. (This is where I add an emoticon so you don’t think I’m a rude word.)  :-)   There, I did it.

YUM letters:  $1 ea. at Hobby Lobby and I spray painted them with leftover spray paint from a past project.  I reeeaaalllyyyy like spray paint, but don’t worry, I don’t huff it — that’s bad news.

Textured table runner: $3.99 at Ross (Dress for Less).  And I did.

The quality of this photo is pretty rough.

Kitchen/wall:  It’s a kitchen, it’s a wall, it’s a kitchen/wall!  It’s NYC Livin’ at its finest.

Kitchen utensils:  Oooh, orange!  These were all purchased at TJ Maxx or Ross, so you KNOW I didn’t pay full price.  They have been hung using a tension rod.  Tension rods are the best.

Artwork:  These two prints above the sink are both from an old picture book all about food (thrifted, of course).  I cut them out and put them in frames from the Dollar Tree.

Hard hat sign:  Josh found this while walking in the park in Atlanta one day.  That’s called free, folks!

Kitchen nook

Kitchen nook:  You cannot see this alcove unless you are in it, so I was OK with a little more clutter here.  The magnetic knife rack is perfect for apartments (Ikea, $8.99, but really I got it at a spring cleaning clothes swap, so it was FREE).  Again, I love me some tension rods, and I have used them here to hang even more utensils (they are hung with paper clips).

Hope you enjoyed the tour of my living room!  Bedrooms pics will come very soon, but in the meantime please feel free to comment (below) or e-mail me with some pics of your very own; I’d love to feature them on this blog!

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